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Author Archives: Karen R. Long

Novelist Laird Hunt On The Women Who Influenced His Midwestern Storytelling

Credit: Ulf Andersen/Aurimages/AFP FORUM Laird Hunt, Wikipedia will tell you, “is an American writer, translator and academic.”  True, as far as that goes. But readers of Hunt’s haunted, touched-by-the-fantastical fiction know it goes much deeper, and farther back. At 48, Hunt’s beard has grayed, and he’s updated his stylish glasses since 2013, when he won an Anisfield-Wolf Book Award for his antebellum novel “Kind One.” Today he describes that work as the beginning of a triptych, which grew to include his mesmerizing Civil War story “Neverhome” and the newly minted “An Evening Road.” This third book unspools in 1930 over a single August day and night in a sweltering rural Indiana that became notorious for a double lynching. Laird himself was a seventh-grade boy... Read More →

REVIEW: Laird Hunt’s “The Evening Road”

The Evening Road returns Laird Hunt to Indiana, where the Anisfield-Wolf winner lived on his grandmother’s farm during his high school years, and where his feel for the rural Midwest and its uncelebrated people has few equals in American literature. This seventh novel springs from one of the nation’s most troubled wells. Hunt tells it over a single summer night, anchored in the bloody lynching of two men – Abram Smith and Thomas Shipp -- in Marion, Indiana August 7, 1930.   “The events of that evening gave rise to the poem ‘Strange Fruit’ by Abel Meeropol, which was made famous as a song by Billie Holiday,” Hunt, now 48, writes about the source of his new novel. “At least 10,000 people (some put the number as high as 15k) flooded into the medium-sized town to attend the... Read More →

Let These Books — From Poetry To The Political — Kick Off Your 2017 Reading List

How does one structure a year in reading?The New York Times published the answers of 47 writers and artists who reflected on the books they chose over the past year. Their responses create a fascinating skein of reading and thinking, and include essays from four Anisfield-Wolf Book Awards recipients. The entire conversation, which weaves from basketball hall-of-famer Kareem Abdul-Jabbar to filmmaker Ava DuVernay to former House speaker Newt Gingrich to author Maxine Hong Kingston, is enlivening, a hopeful way to face into a new year.Praise for “The Underground Railroad,” the stupendous fall novel from Anisfield-Wolf winner Colson Whitehead, threads through these reflections. Salman Rushdie read it; so did the YA-writer John Green, Anne Tyler and Judd Apatow.Maxine Hong Kingston, who... Read More →

Winners Of 2016 Dayton Literary Peace Prize Bring Courage To Literature

Winners of the 2016 Dayton Literary Peace Prize from left to right: Viet Thanh Nguyen, winner for The Sympathizer; Marilynne Robinson, Holbrooke Award winner for Lifetime Achievement; Susan Southard winner for NagasakiMarilynne Robinson – she of the incandescent, Pulitzer-winning prose – wasn’t thinking about her celebrated fiction last month, even though she took clear pleasure recalling its pull in 2015 bringing President Barack Obama to Iowa to interview her. Instead, the winner of Lifetime Achievement from the Dayton Literary Peace Prize dwelt last month on her 1989 nonfiction Mother Country.“I can report that I’ve been sued only once – and that for a book about nuclear waste disposal by the United Kingdom that makes the Irish Sea the most radioactive water in the... Read More →

Tavis Smiley Brings “Courting Justice” To Cleveland

 Cross the American criminal justice system, and – if you are unlucky -- prepare for crushing debt.Here are a smattering of the possible fees awaiting defendants: for court appearances, for room and board in jail or prison, for court-required drug testing, counseling or community service, for a public defender or for electronic monitoring.In the two decades, tens of millions of Americans have been fined or billed as part of their punishment for a criminal offense. And this practice has spiked -- in 1986, 12 percent of those incarcerated were also fined, by 2004 some 37 percent were slapped with fines, while 66 percent faced both fines and fees.Late fees and collection penalties compound these debts into punitive amounts, especially for anyone living in poverty. In 2011, the city of... Read More →

Author David Livingstone Smith Speaks On Combating Dehumanization At CWRU

Philosopher David Livingstone Smith gave a lively preview of “Making Monsters: The Uncanny Powers of Dehumanization,” his forthcoming book, for an avid circle of listeners gathered at the Inamori Center for Ethics and Excellence in Cleveland.  The new work examines two cases of spectacle lynching – public events for which railroads put on extra excursion cars, tens of thousands assembled and crowds fought for human relics and nightmarish photos to commemorate the torture and killing of young black men.Smith, 63, is keen to know “what is going on under the hood here, in these acts pursued by sane, ordinary people...the same sort of folk you’d meet at an average PTA meeting.”The scholar, a professor at the University of New England, blends an examination of biology, philosophy... Read More →

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie Salutes First Lady Michelle Obama In New York Times Style Magazine

The editors of the New York Times Style magazine invited four woman to write letters of appreciation to Michelle Obama for the October 23, 2016 issue. The first – and arguably the most powerful – letter came from Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, who won an Anisfield-Wolf Book Award for her second novel, “Half of a Yellow Sun” in 2007. The following year she won a MacArthur Foundation “genius grant” and her third novel, “Americanah,” was named one of the ten best books of 2013. Adichie’s TED talks, “We Should All be Feminist” and “The Danger of a Single Story,” have attracted more than 14 million viewers.  She splits her time between Nigeria, where she was born, and the United States.Her letter to Michelle Obama already has the feel of a classic:by Chimamanda Ngozi... Read More →

Sociologist Orlando Patterson On African-Americans’ Profound Cultural Influence: “America Is Indelibly Blackish”

Orlando Patterson, the public intellectual and Harvard University sociologist, made a deep impression on his audiences in Cleveland in September. He received a rousing standing ovation, capping the awards ceremony in the Ohio Theatre of Playhouse Square.  A few listeners walked out – which is also in keeping with the tenor of the reception to his globally influential scholarship.“At Harvard, neither personal comfort nor false harmony have ever been his goal; he has always challenged his fellow faculty with his outspoken and fearless ideas,” said Anisfield-Wolf Jurist Steven Pinker as he introduced Patterson. “As colleagues, we have all found him forthright and reliably engaged; however, his gracious manner, and the musical Jamaican lilt of his penetrating discourse, often mask the... Read More →

Author And Illustrator Duncan Tonatiuh Infuses Children’s Literature With Real World Messages

This Halloween, families can share a treat that lasts longer than candy corn: “Funny Bones: Posada and His Day of the Dead Calaveras.”Author and illustrator Duncan Tonatiuh – his mother is Mexican; his father is American – came to Cleveland in September to accept a Norman A. Sugarman honor award in children’s biography for the appealing, 40-page picture book.It tells the story of Mexican artist and printer Guadalupe (Lupe) Posada, 1852-1913, who drew important political cartoons. The subject is best remembered for his whimsical drawings of skeletons – Calaveras – that have become synonymous with the Dia de Muertos (Day of the Dead) festival.“Skeletons riding bicycles . . . skeletons wearing fancy hats . . . skeletons dancing and strumming on guitars,” the book begins... Read More →

“Very Heartfelt And Intellectual”: College Students Reflect On Lillian Faderman

Photo by Donn R. NottageWhen Lillian Faderman spoke at the City Club of Cleveland this September, she ably distilled her ample Anisfield-Wolf winning history, “The Gay Revolution: The Story of the Struggle,” into a half-hour presentation with 20 minutes of questions. Her audience was diverse, and several members expressed awe over a 76-year-old pioneer who came out as a lesbian in 1956.Among the listeners were 14 young adults enrolled in a seminar on philanthropy in America -- all first-year students at Case Western Reserve University.“Lillian Faderman has long been a hero of mine and her work has informed my own research on early modern women,” said their professor, Barbara Burgess-Van Aken. She called her decision to bring the class “a shamelessly selfish choice which I... Read More →
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